Abhyanga is an Ayurvedic practice of massaging yourself with oil. Ayurveda states that you should not put anything on your body that you wouldn’t eat, so using natural and organic oils suitable for your Dosha(body-type)
Abhyanga has many benefits, including toning your muscles, enhancing detoxification, softening your skin, calming your nervous system, releasing fatigue, aiding your sleep, improving elimination, lubricates your joints, increases circulation and hydrates you from within.
Tha Charaka Samhita states, “The body of one who uses oil massage regularly does not become affected much even if subjected to accidental injuries, or strenuous work. By using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age.”
How to practice
Its an intuitive practice, similar to applying lotion, but more deliberate. The sanskrit word for oil is sneba, which also means ‘love’. When oiling your body, do it in a loving matter and be grateful of your body and all it offers you.
The touch of the massage depends on how you feel and your Dosha. If you feel heavy and lathargic then use firm and vigorous strokes to stimulate your body and get your muscles loosened. If you’re stressed and tight, practice slower movements. It’s about creating balance.
1) Make sure the oil is warm before you put it on your skin. Either fill a glass bottle with oil and submerge it in a pot of hot water on the stove or if you don’t have the time you can put a little oil in your hand and rub them until it gets warm before you start massaging your body.
2) Start by rubbing the oil into your arms and pay extra attention to dry spots such as elbows and wrists.
3) Next rub your abdomen in counterclockwise circular motion. This is the direction of your colon and the movement aids your digestion and elimination. Go up your right side and down your left side.
4) Bring the oil up to your chest in long slow strokes towards your heart. This will help you connect with your heart chakra and emotions.
5) Start massaging your neck and back. The back is a hard place to reach, but try your best.
6) Then move to your bottocks and down your legs, ending with your feet.
When you’re done put on some socks to retain the oil and some easy clothes that you’re ok with getting some oil residue on.
Depending on your bodytype and season you should do this at least two to five times a week.
For a Vata body, you should do it at least five times a week, maybe seven during the cold and dry season. Sesame oil is recommended.
for Pittas, three times a week with coconut oil, maybe less during the hot and humid months.
For Kaphas, practice at least two times a week while paying extra attention to dry spots and by adding stimulating herbs to your oil. Sesame, almond and olive oils are good choices.
Once a week you should also oil your scalp as it enhances hair growth and calms the mind. If you have long hair you can braid it and sleep with it overnight with towel over you pillow to protect it from the oil.